The first stop on our tour of Europe was London.
We loved London, but it's so expensive there it was almost physically painful. Not only are the prices relatively high (even compared to the SF Bay Area), but the exchange rate is decidedly NOT in our favor.
$512.00 = £250.00 Ouch.
London's public transportation rocks like no other. Our hotel was conveniently located about two blocks from the Euston Station which gave us access to both the tube and trains, and bus stops are everywhere. Our smartest purchase in London was day passes which gave us unlimited rides for both tube and bus. Whoever laid out the tube system and created the tube maps is a genius. We did experience a couple of delays during our visit—one due to flooding, one due to a "jumper" (eeesh, I can think of more than a dozen better ways to remove yourself from the gene pool).
Hard as it is to believe, we didn't come across a single pub offering Newcastle—later we found out we should have been looking for "free house" pubs, as apparently a lot of the pubs are chains that carry only the chain's brand of brew.
From my limited observations over our (split) four day visit, I have come to the conclusion that Londoners don't like cold beverages. And forget the requisite ice water with your meal - if you want water, you have to buy bottled water, and it ain't cheap. Sodas generally came in small glasses at near room temperature with a lonely ice cube at the top melting fast. I don't know if there's a water shortage or what, but it was a bit of a culture shock considering we were *trying* to hold tight to our money. The end result was we didn't eat or drink much while in London, and I began our tour more than a little dehydrated. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying. Of course I realize there are differences in culture, I'm just pointing out what differences I noticed.
Our second day in London we visited the Tower of London. One thing I love about the English is the way they respect their history and their historical buildings. Believe it or not, there were places we visited in Europe that have absolutely NO respect for their local treasures—but more on that in another post.
It was fascinating walking through the different towers and looking at all the ancient armour. The Tower of London is also home to the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula. It's the most beautiful chapel I've ever seen, so old and delicate, and so carefully preserved. Walking through door I was filled with such a sense of awe and wonder, it put me to tears.
The original Chapel of St. Peter's was outside the Tower walls until they were expanded by Henry III. The Chapel has served as the place of worship for the Tower community from that time onward. The present form of the chapel dates from 1519-1520 and is a rare example of early Tudor church building.
All of those executed on the Tower Green were buried in the Chapel and many executed on Tower Hill were buried there as well (the executed prisoners had their bodies hastily buried without markers). The Chapel was renovated in 1876 during the reign of Queen Victoria, and the remains uncovered in the nave of the church (some with still intact coffins) were re-interred in the crypt. The remains that were uncovered in the chancel were reburied under the marble in front of the altar. Some of these skeletons were identified: Anne Boleyn and her cousin Kathryn Howard among them.
It was amazing to be sitting there knowing that such notable historical figures were buried just inches beneath our feet. The feeling was indescribable. We have NOTHING in America that even comes close. Bless you Brits for preserving your past—it was more than a little heartwarming to visit my "Motherland" and find so many treasures intact.
Expensive or not, we'll definitely be returning to London.